Friday, June 28, 2013

80's Comeback Special

Tonight is our work's Christmas in July party, and the theme is '80's Prom'. I'm looking forward to it because it's been busy at work lately and we all deserve a chance to let our hair down, or in this case - out. Big hair will definitely be on the agenda tonight.

Unfortunately I'm old enough to remember the 80's, but fortunately was young enough not to be into fashion until the grungy 90's... so I looked for some inspiration pics to help me with my costume.

I'll be going for big hair (of course) with a big bow tied in it, with layered necklaces a la SJP:
with the makeup and bangles of Cyndi Lauper:
while I found a black sequinned tube dress at the Salvos which I sewed a purple tulle ra-ra skirt to which looks very similar to:
So if I get any good pics I'll upload them next week for your enjoyment :-)

One thing is for sure - it will be the ugliest party I've attended in a very long time as everyone seems to be competing to have biggest shoulder pads, sleeves and hair. Should be fun!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Prayin' for Rain

I feel like a real farmer now - I've spent half my week talking or thinking about rain. Luckily it's not because our livelihood depends on it raining (yet), but because if it rains, we don't have to go down to The Paddock to water the plants this weekend.

It has been an exhausting few weeks since we planted the 200 trees and shrubs, which is something I hadn't mentally prepared myself for. I had realised it would be exhausting actually putting in the 200 plants, so I took a week off and made sure all preparations that could be done ahead of time were done.

What I didn't consider was how the exhaustion of that one activity would carry forward for the next few months while we try to keep our baby trees alive. So I went ahead and made my 60 kays in 30 days commitment (I'm nearly finished!) without thinking I wouldn't be around at weekends to put in the kilometres.

I also jumped at the chance to move my upholstery course forward to June (from October) when someone else pulled out of the class - once again, without considering how this would affect our time at weekends for watering (answer = badly).

So after our disastrous after-upholstery 3 hour drive to The Paddock last weekend (just to find the neighbours cows had trampled our precious babies) we have been PRAYING for rain this week (and this is from a buddhist and an atheist).

Tomorrow night is our work Christmas-in-July party so I will be doing my rain-dance ALL night long in the hope that it rains in Woodanilling and we don't have to do the late drive again this Saturday night.

I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Working hard to stay healthy

A lot of people are sick right now - the usual winter cold has gone around the office and a lot of people on the train each day are coughing or sneezing. I'm not feeling too bad; I've just had a few days of those annoying symptoms: headache, stiffness, tiredness which make you feel run down.

I often do get sick when there's too much to do - it's the body's way of saying SLOW DOWN! By forcing you to bed for a few days. I'm getting better at reading the early symptoms and avoiding the crash, so am currently dosing myself up to keep the lurgy at bay.

My daily pharmaceutical routine has become: after breakfast take two lysine tablets (to keep cold sores away), a multivitamin and a vitamin C. I usually eat pretty healthy but I'm making sure I'm getting a good variety of vegetables right now (I can't eat a lot of fruit, I'm fructose intolerant).

After lunch I'm taking two ibuprofen to tone down the headache; then after work I'm going for a short run followed by electrolytes to keep up my salts, two more lysine tablets and finally a 'shot' of liquid iron supplement. This is a lot of drugs for me!

Usually I don't take supplements - unless I'm feeling run down, but I don't mind taking the maximum doses when I need them.

Do you have any 'fight the flu' routines or recipes that keep you healthy? 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On? Or Laugh at Life instead.

Wow did I have a weekend. And not in a good way. The weekend just gone was THE most hectic weekend I’ve had in a LOOOONG time, and I’m completely shattered. Now it’s Monday, the start of another long, busy and over-booked week.
There were definitely highlights over the weekend: my upholstery course and seeing my friend’s band play (who were AWESOME by the way), as well as lowlights: fighting with my boyfriend and attempting to stop our dog eat something indescribably disgusting.
But that is all behind us and today I just have to focus on the now. I’m getting pulled in too many directions: work, partner, family, friends as well as the personal commitments I make and adhere to.
The Run 60 kays in 30 days commitment I made three weeks ago is one example. I had no idea at the time I made that commitment that this month would be so busy, or so long – it feels like it’s been three months, not three weeks ago I wrote that post! I’m so relieved I’m only a week away from finishing so that can be one less thing I have to think about each week.
It is difficult when surrounded by stressed out people to keep calm and carry on without reacting negatively to the stress. Of course you can use breathing exercises and mindfulness to reduce your own stress levels, but when in a group of stressed people laughter can really break the ice and reduce everybody’s stress.
I’m not the kind of person who can whip out a hilarious joke on cue but I can relay a funny story that made me laugh. And since laughter is infectious that might encourage other people to share their funny stories too.
Here's a link to a TED talk that made me laugh out loud yesterday, 'The shared experience of absurdity'.
Why don’t you share your stress-busting stories too?

Friday, June 21, 2013

AnnaKist Upholstery?

I'm thinking about setting up a business. Over the last few days I've been looking for fabric for the Upholstery Course I'm attending. Of course I want the fabric to be fabulous so I'm calling/emailing/visiting all the gorgeous fabric stores I can find; there's just one problem... most of them only sell to businesses!

Even the ones that DO sell to people then charge exorbitant (i.e. recommended retail price) per metre for the fabric in comparison to the wholesale price. Then there is all the equipment required for upholstery - if I'm going to do upholstery at home then I'm going to need to purchase it, at least if I were a business then the cost of the equipment would be tax deductible.

My understanding is that to set up a business you need to plan to make a profit (and not just do the work as a hobby). Well I DEFINITELY plan to make a profit out of upholstery, I'm hoping it will remain an income source that will help me move to the country a bit sooner.

I will need to continue my full time job for the foreseeable future but making a profit from upholstery jobs at the weekend still seems a possibility. Of course I'm getting WELL ahead of myself here; I've attended one upholstery class out of four and am super excited about how much I enjoy it.

Everything always seems like fun at first (OK, not EVERYTHING!) so I will definitely need to wait until the honeymoon period is over with upholstery before making any big decisions. But there is nothing to lose from looking into the costs and options involved in a company, should I decide to start one in the future.

Do you have any advice?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

In the mood for mood boards

I love mood boards. I love flicking through pages of inspiring images and picking out ones with colour schemes or fab pieces of furniture that I covet. Since Mike and I are planning to build our own house in a decade or so I’m already compiling images on Pinterest and that inspire me, but I’m wondering how to make these images useful.
Is anyone a mood board guru? How do you take the hundreds of pictures you collect and turn them into something practical: a piece of furniture or a colour scheme? Perhaps there is a better way to organise the pictures than I'm aware of?
Of course I started with one board and as the number of images has grown I’m slowly splitting these down into indoors/outdoors etc. but how far should this go? And then do you cross-post if you like an armchair AND the wallpaper in one pic? Argh?!
I feel like I could spend hours each week compiling mood boards for the next decade and NEVER get anything useful out of them. In which case, it may be fun for now but it’s not a very good investment of my time!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Stress and the modern day fight/flight

As part of my recent studies in animal anatomy I’ve been learning about the nervous system. Something that peaked my interest was the fight/flightresponse and it’s affects on humans in the modern era. 
To summarize the fight/flight response, when an animal is put in a dangerous situation (for example a predator is approaching) hormones are released in the brain which affect the body in a myriad of ways, including the following:
  •          blood pressure increases
  •          heart and respiration rate increase
  •          digestion slows or stops
That all seems pretty helpful if you have to run or fight for your life, but in the modern world humans don’t face predators on a day-to-day basis, yet our fight/flight responses kick in most days anyway. Why? Stress.
That heart-racing feeling you get when the deadline is looming or the paperwork is piling up, is your fight/flight response: your body actually wants to bolt away. And maybe the best thing to do is let it (well, at least to walk away calmly).
We all know stress makes us sick but what you may not be aware of is just how quickly or how sick stress can make you. After an initial boost in immune response (thought to aid any injuries received during the fight or flight) the body’s immunity is suppressed, so if your stress continues for hours or days then your immune system is not working and you are far more prone to infections. Having your digestion stop working causes its own set of issues, from diarrhea to mild malnutrition as you stop being able to gain the nutrients from the food you are eating.
Most people are aware that stress also stops you sleeping or wakes you up at night; this is due to the increased heart rate and the fact that your body can’t tell the difference between stress when you are awake and stress when you’re dreaming. Even those stressful dreams you have create the same hormonal secretions in the brain that cause the symptoms described.
I’ve only touched on the physiological (body) effects but the psychological (mental) effects and behavioural effects are just as serious. As your mind spins you’ll be less able to concentrate and may even experience forms of anxiety, depression or anger. Behavioural effects come into play when we self-medicate to alleviate the symptons: over eating or using drugs and alcohol to ‘relieve stress’ are common reactions.
So what can we do? Take that walk your body is expecting; if you TRULY can’t get away long enough for a 5 minute stroll then walk to the kitchen for a glass of water. At least the change of environment will help clear your head and the water will aid hydration (helping any digestion issues you may be subconsciously having). Lastly, breathing exercises are awesome for training your brain you aren’t about to be eaten by that pile of work, so will alleviate the symptoms.
What stresses you out, and what do you do to relieve stress?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Run 60 kays in 30 days – half way point check-in

I'm just over half way through my own personal challenge: run 60 kays (kilometres) in 30 days which I instigated finishing my first 12km race. After completing the race I felt my motivation slipping;  the event I had trained towards was over, I had a sore knee and wasn't very motivated to run. 

A personal commitment to run a distance over the month gave me the freedom to pick and choose when I wanted to run (if I didn't feel like it one day, no problem, I just had further to go the next day) as well as the motivation to get out the door at least a few times each week.

As it turns out this was a great post-race motivation for me, instead of just sitting inside (it's winter here so cold and dark outside) I went to see a physiotherapist about my knee. Luckily there isn't any damage so I just have some stretches and exercises to do each day and I'm going back this evening for a follow up appointment.

There have also been quite a few days where I just didn't feel like getting out of my warm comfy clothes to go outside for a run. Last night was a case in point, it had been a long day at work, it was dark by the time I got home and a cosy sit in front of the heater sounded good... 

I've been keeping track of the kilometres I've run over the month so I knew if I didn't go out, I'd have another long run to do later in the week. All I did was go out and run 2 kays (my shortest run ever!) but it means I'm keeping on top of the commitment AND it made me go out when I didn't feel like it.

Today (having gone for a run yesterday) I actually feel more up for a run today! Sometimes it's like that, the hardest part is getting out the door, and running makes you feel like running MORE.

So after 17 days of June I've run 36 kays - those two kms put me JUST in front of my 2km per day average I need to do to meet my goal. By the way, for full transparency I should state that a few of those kilometres 'run' have been part of interval training, so technically I walked some while I ran for a minute and walked for a minute.

Interval training has noticeably helped me increase my pace which has dropped by over 10 seconds per kilometre over a 5km distance (I'm a slow runner); my GPS watch helps me record all the details.

I'm feeling confident at this point that I'll fulfill the commitment to run 60 kays over 30 days, by which time I'll be into a new training regime for my next 12km race: the Perth City to Surf at the end of August. I'll let you know how I go!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Upholstery 101

Over the weekend I attended the first of four Saturday afternoon upholstery courses organised by Perth Wood School and it was so much fun! The tutor Randa was so passionate about soft furnishings and her excitement was catching. Luckily the course also involved enough physical work to keep us warm since it was a very cold day in the workshop.
Perth Wood School supplied the benches (like a long ottoman) that we are learning to upholster. I’m taking detailed notes to help me remember all the steps; I’ve done enough courses to know that if you don’t repeat the steps you learnt very quickly after leaving, you forget and lose confidence quickly.
Since I have a large chair base at home (that I found on a verge) which needs to be fully reupholstered, I should be using the skills I learn within a month of leaving. But in case I don’t remember all the steps I’m writing everything down and taking pictures as I go.
Randa is teaching us to upholster with minimal waste and using natural materials (as much as possible), which is exactly my style so I’m thrilled to have a like-minded teacher. I’m already looking forward to our next class on Saturday, and in the mean time I’m window shopping for fabrics.
I’m so excited I’ve even started a new Pinterest board for inspiration. I’ve been dreaming of having some Emily Ziz wallpaper in my new house one day but maybe this is an opportunity to use one her patterns in a fabric instead?
Here are some of my Emily Ziz favourites

Friday, June 14, 2013

Cruelty Free Shopping

I’m going grey. I have been for a few years now so it’s no great shock, but I do dye my hair as I’m not quite ready to be as grey as my hair is. I went to the store to find some hair dye but all the brands available do testing on animals. I even tried the chemist which had a larger selection of brands, but the result was the same.
Why is it so hard to purchase from a company that doesn’t torture animals? The labels of ALL hair dyes say you need to do a test on yourself before use to make sure your not allergic, so why burn the eyes of bunnies before selling the product? It seems like such an archaic process to test cosmetics and other products on animals; there is no correlation between reactions in animals and reactions in humans anyway?! Scientifically it doesn’t even make sense.

Personally I won’t give money to a company who does animal testing because:
a) keeping animals in laboratories is cruel
b) testing products on animals hurts, harms and kills millions of animals year-round
c) if you hurt your pet it’s assault, if you hurt thousands it’s science
Something is seriously wrong with this picture! How can we hate the idea of someone kicking their dog but be OK with thousands of dogs being tortured to make sure our hair dye is OK?
If you want to find out which brands test on animals then there is a list of websites given below, but you can do a web search for “cruelty free” and the item you want to buy and this will usually bring you the information immediately.
Please comment below and add brands you love, or hate depending on their animal testing credentials.
Brands that DO test on animals given here: 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Creating lasting positive change

My partner Mike was watching a TED talk last night when I got home from my evening run. The talk was entitled ‘The happy secret to better work’ byShawn Achor and from what I gather the talk was about flipping the idea of success = happiness on its head, by working towards happiness, which in turn will bring success.
Mike was most struck by the list given at the end of the talk for creating lasting positive change.

The first check on the list for three daily gratitudes is a little trick I learnt years ago for finding contentment in the now. This idea has copped a bit of backlash recently, which is common after a technique becomes a fad; books like The Gratitude Book just look so cheesy I’ll never find out if they have anything good to say. 
Years ago I went out on a limb and listened to the audiobook of ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne, and now whenever I hear the phrase ‘the law of attraction’ the hairs on the back of neck stand on end, my pupils dilate and I look for the nearest exit to flee through.
It’s not that I’m not open to the concepts of the book; I happen to believe we do all subconsciously create the universe we live in and our thoughts CAN effect our world. I just hope that if we chose to use the power of our minds we’d do more than look for a Rolex or sports car.
So despite all the bollocks out there regarding gratitude, thinking of things that are positive instead of negative will obviously have a positive effect on your outlook.
Next on the list was journaling, and I’m sad to say having missed the talk myself I’m not sure why Shawn Achor included this one. I’ve recently started this blog as a form of journaling after being inspired by Leo Babauta of ZenHabits to write every day. I enjoy it mostly because it scares me; as a shy person putting my thoughts ‘out there’ like this is quite terrifying, and doing things that scare you definitely makes you feel alive.
Next on the list was exercise, and since I had just come in from a run I think you know I’m doing that one pretty regularly. I’m nearly half-way through my 60 kays in 30 days challenge and am just about on track. The science behind exercise releasing endorphins is well known and exercise also helps keep you fit and healthy, both of which aid in better mental health.
This leads onto the fourth point: meditation. Running is a form of meditation in action (as is a lot of repetitive exercise) and is also something that can be practiced anywhere at any time. Bringing your focus to the now, ‘mindfulness’ of the moment is meditation in action so you don’t need to sit down and formally meditate every day to reap the rewards of a calmer mind.
The last point is Random Acts of Kindness – oh no, here’s a gaping hole in my happiness checklist! Although I try to be kind to the people I work with everyday, random acts of kindness to strangers isn’t something I practice, or even think about. I think I’m having a good morning if I haven’t punched a random stranger in the face on the train in the mornings; I’m getting used to the crush but if someone coughs in my face my urge to kill starts rising.
Random acts of kindness to strangers is another thing that terrifies my mildly, why? People are odd and interacting with strangers is always fraught with the possibility of them latching onto you and wanting a weird conversation. Not the end of the world I know, so perhaps I’ll have to give this one a try.

Have you done any random acts of kindness? Who to? How did it go? What do you think are the positive effects?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Anarchy and the G8

Well here comes the G8 again, a meeting of 8 'great' nations who get together to figure out ways to end poverty and hunger... well, at least they COULD get together to end poverty and hunger, but no.
They talk, and eat, and have photos taken together, then talk some more, eat again, another photo shoot and home; all at the taxpayers’ expense. So what do they talk about? Maybe they ARE working to end world hunger? Ah bless, but no.
Most of us will never know what is discussed during these meetings; sometimes they decide to have a particular topic (the host nation’s leader sets the agenda) that is openly discussed with the media, but usually no such transparency exists, and we are just left paying for the grand gala without being let in on the details.
I have a particular nostalgia for the G8 because my experiences protesting against it in 2005 are what made me realise anarchism (as a system of self-government), actually works. I was living in Edinburgh when the G8 was held just up the road in Gleneagles; how could I resist attending the protest?
In the previous year I had attended one of the international protests against the war in Iraq, “no blood for oil” was our slogan and Tony Blair had lied to the international public, stating there was evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This has now been proven to be lies and that liar, that international war criminal was leading the G8 in Scotland.
So, who was invited? Other than the usual suspects the International Energy Agency made their debut at the 2005 G8, an organisation whose mandate is to manage the security of oil supply. Hmmm, I wonder what they talked about... I can only guess, and my guess is oil: who has it, and how they can ‘secure the supply’ (i.e. by force).
Publicly, poverty in Africa was said to be on the G8’s agenda for discussion in 2005, largely due to the international ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, which culminated in a march of an estimated 225,000 people in Edinburgh. Protesters demanded the G8 ‘Drop the Debt’ crippling developing nations and increase aid, without strings attached.
Most aid given to developing nations goes straight to US/UK-owned contractors anyway (to build infrastructure, for example) and what does go to the countries comes with requirements further tying the country to credit dependence and debt to the G8. Unfortunately ‘aid’ is not a monetary gift from one country to another, it’s a payment for services rendered. See
There was an anarchist campsite at Gleneagles where thousands of diverse people came together to protest the G8. There were people in fairy costumes, skinheads, children, ‘normal’ folks and everything in between. Each area of the camp site had a local meeting to discuss their ideas for protest and camp organisation (feeding everyone, cleanup duties etc.); then the facilitators of each group went to a central tent for a camp-wide discussion of the protest. In this way every person had an opportunity to have their say and each group got to discuss their methods of protest.
Riot police in full riot gear were outside the camp threatening to move in and tensions were high. Some people wanted to go out and attack them, some people wanted a sit-down protest while others wanted to walk among the police handing out flowers. How was this going to work?
Each group discussed their idea and then the group facilitators agreed each protest idea would be put into action in a chronological order starting with the most peaceful and only using violence as a last resort. So the mothers, fairies and children went first, they handed out flowers and the children hugged the legs of the police. It was quite a sight to behold! There were no cameras allowed at the campsite to protect everyone’s identities so there were no pictures taken, but it was beautiful, trust me.
In the end our last resort was not needed and the protest ended peacefully. Protesters were allowed to leave in groups of about 1000; they sent us by train back to Edinburgh to be searched and photographed.
So after the British taxpayers spent a total of £12.7 million for the G8 weekend, what was the result? A handful of promises were made (and mostly not kept) to reduce Africa’s debt, but aid was given to Palestine for ‘infrastructure’ and many trade-inhibiting tariffs and subsidies were reduced, opening the door to more G8-owned corporate organisations. It sounds like the mob G8 just got their way again.
Now eight years later the G8 is back in the UK and although David Cameron is hosting the party this year, I’m sad to say, nothing has changed. At least (I hope) the anarchist protests will continue, so a new generation of people will realise, we CAN peacefully organise ourselves. We CAN co-exist with people from different backgrounds with different agendas. We don’t need these corrupt politicians to lead us, rule us or govern us; we CAN govern ourselves. That is anarchy.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cruelty Free Money: put your money where your mouth is

Recently I changed my superannuation fund to Cruelty Free Super, when I realised I had no idea where my super was being invested. Considering how unethical most corporations are you can pretty much assume that any money you have invested is being used to break the little guy and stuff the pockets of the rich (all while ruining our environment).
When you hear about ethical investments I assumed these were for rich people who had money to invest, but I realised that your superannuation (and in fact ANY money you have in a bank) is being invested on your behalf. That’s YOUR money paying for deforestation, sweatshops and intensive farming.
Personally I think intensive farming is one of our world’s most horrific practices, and it has a lot to do with why I became a vegetarian 16 years ago. To borrow a line from one of my favourite campaigns, “A world without factory farming is possible. Make it possible”. I’m not going to go into the details here, I’m just using this example as a case in point.
Is there something you feel strongly about? Perhaps you boycott a company you believe to be unethical. Are you sure you aren’t personally funding THAT company with your bank savings or superannuation? Who does your bank invest in? Where is your superannuation invested?
It’s worth asking a few simple questions to find out, and if it all feels a bit hard, then at least there is a superannuation fund you can select which you can be certain does NOT invest in:
  • Child Labour
  • Human Rights Abuses
  • Environmental Destruction
  • Intensive Farming
  • Live Exports
  • Animal Testing

If you want more information then go to I’m not commissioned to speak on their behalf, I just happen to believe they’re a good company with a good idea: not investing in torture, abuse or destruction.

Where is your money invested?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches

For those of you too young to remember Peaches by The Presidents of the United States of America, that's a musical reference from way back (1996) and is related to a conversation with my lovely man Mike that I had over the weekend.

We went back to The Paddock to water the 200 plants we put in 3 weeks ago (for details you can read my permaculture blog here), which was good and bad. Bad because it's a three-hour drive each way so we spent half of our weekend driving there and back just for it to rain all Saturday night and Sunday (i.e. wasted trip - we only went there to water!), but it was equally good and definitely worth the trip because
a) it's always good to get out of the city, it's way more relaxing in the country
b) it gave Mike and I a chance to chat properly without the distraction of TV, phones or other noise.

I'd been needing to have a proper talk with Mike for quite a while but just wasn't making it happen. He's been stressed at work, and I've been feeling down so we were just in a place where we were snapping at each other and not communicating well. The quiet (and cold!) at The Paddock gave us the peace we needed and we talked openly about a variety of topics in front of the fire.

I explained I've felt a rising melancholy that he has a job he loves and fulfills him (which I don't) and that although I signed up to work full time until we could live at The Paddock in comfort, I just don't feel like I'm being true to myself to do something a don't love for a decade, just to pay the bills so I can do something I love later.

Unfortunately I'm not one of those people who figured out what they want to do with their lives at a young age (or at any age - I'm 37 and I still have no idea what job would make me happy). I came very close when I worked at the kennels, because I love dogs with a passion, but the kennel also housed a pound and there was an immense amount of sadness attached to that little place. But I digress. 

Just to show how completely amazing Mike is, he heard me out then suggested we work towards a much closer timeline. Why don't we work towards getting it comfortable enough for me part-time, instead of both of us full-time. Then I can look at spending a few days in Perth and a few days in the country each week (with a day ferrying to and fro - most likely on the bus).

The fact that Mike was even open-minded enough to consider this sort of setup, let alone clever enough to think of it just astounds me. I'm the luckiest girl in the world. 

So now I'm calm again, with a slightly altered direction. Nothing needs to change in the short term but in two years I'll be looking at installing a toilet/shower block which would make the shed habitable. By then we will have completed the insulation to keep the temperature more comfortable and we will have a generator or similar power source for electronics.

Then I'll just need a part-time job either here or there for an income source and I'll be ready. Mike admits he would only be ready to move to the country once it's as comfortable as our house in the city, because he expects to need to keep working for the long-term. And why not? He loves what he does, why should he give it up to live in a freezing shed and be broke? But there is a middle path; Mike helped me find it and we'll walk it together.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Does Free Will Exist?

Last night I watched the last of “The Story of Science” documentaries, this one was titled Who Are We? and discussed (in part) B.F.Skinner’s work on behavioural psychology in the 1950s. Skinner did research with pigeons that showed he could alter their behaviour very quickly using rewards. He then theorised that humans learn in the same way, and that ALL of our behaviour is learnt in response to our environment.
Personally this sounds like nurture over nature; a theory I have personal reasons for not agreeing with completely. I’m adopted and have very noticeable similarities to my biological family. We don’t just look alike but we have the same mannerisms and ideologies despite the fact I only met them when I was 21 years of age.
But even if Skinner’s theory doesn’t explain 100% of our behaviour, it certainly has been proven to work on humans; the Broken Window Theory implemented by Mayor Guiliani during the 1990s is evidence of this (as discussed in The Tipping Point).
However Skinner’s theory is only one argument against free will, determinism is another. Determinism states that by the physical laws of cause and effect all actions can be determined given a specific causal scenario; essentially you can predict a result with certainty if you understand what causes that result.
Take that theory to its ultimate end and you can imagine that every action in the universe was put into play at the big bang; the physical laws just took over and played out the determined result based on the causes that were present (after the big bang). Then our very existence as well as every action we take is just the playing out of subatomic particles1.
Whether you choose to believe in either determinism or Skinner’s theory may be irrelevant. Some people believe humans invented God in order to make sense of the world, but maybe we also invented the concept of free will to feel empowered and important, like our choices matter.
Perhaps our future generations will let go of the ego involved in free will – my choice, my decision, my responsibility. Maybe being a part of the giant cosmic explosion2 is enough?
I know that free will ‘seems right’; it’s hard to believe that we’re not in control of our own movements and decisions, but not so long ago everyone believed that the world was flat and the universe revolved around the earth – those ideas seemed right at the time too.

I’d ask what you think but your answer is already determined 

1 "the playing out playing out of subatomic particles" - quote and concept from The Waking Life
2 "we're living through a giant cosmic explosion" - quote from The Story of Science

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Using music to alter your mood

I’ve been feeling a bit down lately. It happens to most of us at some point, but with a history of depression I tend to be quite aware when the gloomy thoughts take over. I use “in the moment” meditation techniques to break the cycle of negative thinking (such as “I feel the ground beneath my feet; feel the posture of my body”) because your body is always in the present moment. If you bring your mind to your body then you can break free from the negative monologue in your head.

This is something that needs to be done repetitively and is helpful to re-write the synapses in your brain. If you’ve had depression before then the repetitive negative thinking you experienced creates pathways in your brain that re-fire when you feel depressed. Hence the ‘cycle’ that you can become aware of (see the movie “What The Bleep“ if you want this explained beautifully).

Returning to the now IS helpful but it can also become tiring if you need to do it constantly (if the negative thoughts keep coming). What I’ve discovered, and now use as a secondary technique is upbeat music. Music has a profound effect on my mood; I used to know this subconsciously when I would listen to The Carpenters for hours when I was depressed. There’s nothing like Karen wailing her sad songs to keep you wallowing in depression!

With this awareness I now keep my mp3 in my bag and plug in my head phones whenever I need to. I did this on my way in to work this morning and changed a drab dark mood into an upbeat one, simply by playing tunes that made me smile or made me want to dance. You can’t be depressed when you’re dancing! I did have to sift through my songs so I think I’ll start an upbeat playlist called ‘happy tunes’ for a faster result next time.

Think back to the old songs that already have happy memories associated with them. When you’re in a dark place this won’t be easy but you may hear a great song somewhere and remember how happy it makes you feel, so note it down and add that tune later. ‘Brim full of Asha’ did that for me this morning, I mean, how can the lyrics “Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow, everybody needs a bosom” NOT make you smile?

What music makes you smile or dance?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Is the UK only days away from a food shortage?

When MPs are warning the public to eat less meat because the UK is “never more than a few days from a significant food shortage, I must admit, the survivalist in me feels vindicated.

Most of us are completely unaware how fragile our boring lives are, and that with a jolt from an outside source such as oil prices skyrocketing, or in this case, too many people wanting to eat beef and cheese(?!) that the supply of food in our shops WILL dwindle and possibly even stop.

If we all grow our herbs and vegetables at home we can supplement these with store-bought staples like bread, milk, cheese and meat. This would at least give us a fall-back; a supply of food if the shops' supplies run low. There are other benefits to growing your own food, like the health benefits involved in being outside, physical labour and knowing what is in your food. It’s also cheaper to grow a proportion of your own food, especially herbs which are easy to grow just about anywhere (a window sill will do).

Using permaculture methods, only a quarter acre of land is required to feed a family of four (or more depending on their diet). Perhaps if we all ate a bit less meat and cheese then we could manage more of our own survival? When the world goes to hell in a handbasket I want to have a healthy vegie patch instead of queueing with the brawlers for a loaf of bread. 

That reminds me, my vegie patch is pretty dead right now... it needs some winter TLC.

It doesn’t take a lot of money or energy to get started, what would encourage you to grow some food? Or what have you had success with?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Do you need to love yourself to succeed?

This morning I discovered this amazing interview with Miuccia Prada via one of those meandering internet ‘strolls’ you can take by following one link to another, so kudos to The Sartorialist for this one.
You can find an excerpt below if you choose not to read the whole article; however you may be surprised to find out about Prada’s communist beginnings and alternative points of view. 
Reporter: ‘How important is it for people to love themselves? I mean women.”
Miuccia Prada: “Now that you ask me, I ask myself.” “What do you think?”
Reporter: “I think it’s overrated.”
Miuccia Prada: “Bravo!” “This is great. This is something I can tell my friends. What a liberation. You can hate yourself!”

This dialogue completely astounded me as I believe that every human being needs to love themselves in order to be successful in life. When I say success I do not mean a great career, but I mean contentment with yourself and the people in your life. Am I wrong?

It’s a cliché to say you can’t love someone else until you learn to love yourself, but aren’t most clichés a cliché for a reason? In this case I definitely believe it to be true. From my own personal experience I only managed to have destructive relationships with other people until I began meditating and learnt to accept myself. That’s what love is, it’s an acceptance without bounds and when you love someone else you accept their faults too.

If we don’t accept our own faults and are always striving for perfection (which doesn’t exist; we are human, we err), aren’t we on a never ending treadmill of craving and desire? We fulfil one desire and immediately move onto the next? Or worse, we fail in fulfilling our desires and hate ourselves. If you hate yourself then you view the world through a perspective of hate, after all we only have our own eyes with which to see the world.

How do you see yourself and does this reflect on your vision of the world around you, and your success in it?